Happily ever after

Experience your own fairy tale at the Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve

T here’s a wooden archway marking the entrance of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve. As you walk through it and along the trail surrounded by trees and large, leafy shrubs, it’s as if you’ve been transported through a wardrobe leading to another world.

“It’s a privilege to have access to these natural areas in the Laurentians, so close to my home,” says Pierre Dupuy, advisor for the Regional Committee for the Protection of Cliffs, an NCC partner in the conservation of Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve. “It’s an opportunity to breathe in the fresh air. It’s also a time to put aside our worldly concerns by letting ourselves be charmed by everything that surrounds us in nature.”

Located just 60 kilometres from Montreal, the Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve is nestled in the Piedmont and Prévost Escarpments of the Laurentian Mountains.

This spot – in the heart of one of the region’s iconic natural areas – combines conservation with public access.

“This is accessible nature, and it’s full of discoveries for those who take the time to explore it,” says Pierre.

As a retired biologist, and having worked for many years in provincial parks throughout Quebec, Pierre has a deep appreciation for the wildlife that lives at Alfred-Kelly. He is particularly connected to the feathered species that rely on this habitat to feed and nest.

“Since 2016, I have led the team at Vigie Faucon. They’re a team of volunteers who survey the reserve’s peregrine falcons. They aim to better understand the birds so we can better protect them,” says Pierre.

“It’s important that Prévost-Piedmont’s cliffs, which serve as a reproduction site for peregrine falcons, are conserved. This species is still in the process of re-establishing itself in Quebec.”

More than 80 per cent of Quebec’s birds of prey species have been identified on this property. While walking along the 16-kilometre trail, visitors may even spot peregrine falcon nesting on the cliffs. Alfred-Kelly also serves as habitat for many other bird species, including mallard and eastern wood-pewee. Bring your binoculars when you visit and you might be surprised by what you see.

“In all my years as an ornithologist, I had never seen a gyrfalcon. But arriving on the shores of Lac Paradis [in Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve] on January 1, 2017, we were greeted by a stunningly white falcon circling above our heads,” recalls Pierre. “It was a magical moment. It was a gyrfalcon – an exceptional visitor from Quebec’s north.”

The site features a wide variety of habitats, from steep rock walls to streams, ponds and forests.  “Lac Paradis is a lovely spot. It boasts rich biodiversity, both in its plants and animals,” says Pierre.

These rocky landscapes are home to a variety of plants and animals. Rare species, such as purple clematis and Holboell’s rockcress, and vulnerable species, such as smooth green snake and pickerel frog, are found here. The property is also home to moose, beaver, porcupine, American mink, hare and common gartersnake. Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve is also recognized for its rare red oak and white pine stand and its rich maple and linden stands.

The site is open year-round for hiking on its 16 kilometres of trails. In winter it is available for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Ice climbing is permitted allowed until the end of February, when peregrine falcons begin selecting their nesting sites.

Although the property is open to the public for recreational and outdoor education activities, NCC and our partners are working to ensure that the human impact on habitats is as minimal as possible.

“A nature reserve on private lands offers access to nature. But first and foremost it’s a way to protect Quebec’s natural heritage and to contribute to our planet’s ecological integrity,” says Pierre.

Exploration at Alfred-Kelly Nature Reserve is endless, as you transport yourself into an other-worldly experience.

“From the song of the hermit thrush, to the bloodroot’s delicate white flower, cupped by its protective leaf, and the quick and furtive movements of an American mink on the shores of Lac Paradis…nature is a source of boundless discovery and wonder,” says Pierre.

Species to Spot

– American mink
– beaver
– common gartersnake
– mallard
– moose
– peregrine falcon
– pickerel frog
– red oak
– smooth greensnake
– snowshoe hare
– sugar maple

Who was Alfred Kelly?

This five-square-kilometre area was once explored by Alfred Kelly, a renowned ornithologist. When he passed away, he left behind a significant portion of natural land in Quebec for the protection of birds to Bird Protection Quebec. In July 1983, BPQ received, along with an important sum of money, a property of about eight hectares (20 acres) of land located in Piedmont. The original property is still owned by BPQ, and NCC wanted to honor Alfred Kelly’s legacy when 471 additional hectares (1,164 acres)were protected in the area in 2010. This purchase was made possible in partnership with Bird Protection Quebec. More than 80 per cent of Quebec’s birds of prey species have been identified on this site. While walking along the 15-kilometre trail, you may even spot the peregrine falcon that is nesting on the cliffs!

Photo Credits (Top to bottom): NCC; NCC; Brian Ratcliff; Don Dabbs; NCC.

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